The 2013-2014 postseason was such an emotional ride, I needed to take a little step back after the Rangers were tragically eliminated in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Sure, I did a report card and may have twittered once or twice, but I needed a break to collect myself. Big props to the crew here for putting together fantastic content, from end of season grades to draft/free agent previews.
Once I felt alright to reengage the hockey world, I wanted to put the past season into some context. We all know the roller coaster narrative of a struggling team at the beginning, some transformative trades and an emotional ride to the Final. Unfortunately, those stories had already been told and I emerged from hibernation a little late. There is way too much going on now to reflect. Off to 2014-2015 we go! Here are some scattered thoughts of the various goings on surrounding the Rangers as we head into tonight’s Draft…
- I obviously agree whole-heartedly with the Richards buy-out for both business and performance reasons. However, the move does put a decent sized hole in the lineup during an offseason without a whole lot of options. Considering the timing of internal free agents, I doubt the Rangers can make a meaningful run at Paul Stastny, considering how overpaid he will be.
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Would acquiring Spezza make the Rangers stronger?
The Rangers need an elite playmaking center, Jason Spezza wants out of Ottawa and the Senators General manager, Bryan Murray has already publicly admitted he won’t get full value for his star center. There are countless reasons why Jason Spezza makes sense for the Rangers, not least because of positional need. Of course, with the Ducks, Blues and other Western Conference teams heavily rumoured to be looking at Spezza, the Rangers may not even be in the picture. This much we do know; the Rangers have a need, Spezza has ten teams he won’t go to and that list doesn’t include the Rangers.
The Rangers had their opportunities against the Kings in the Cup Finals. They didn’t make it a closer series in part because they did not convert enough on the powerplay and because the Kings were the better team down the middle. Spezza helps address both issues. He has been a powerplay force, he is an elite playmaking centre and he is strong in the face off circles.
Perhaps most crucially is the fact that Spezza doesn’t come with a significant contractual commitment. With only one year on his remaining deal the Rangers wouldn’t need to commit to Spezza before seeing whether he can perform on the New York stage and given the acknowledgement by Murray he will likely get less than equal value there’s a chance for the Rangers to steal an elite player who fills a need.
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Per Pierre LeBrun, the Rangers have officially bought out center Brad Richards. Richards originally signed a nine-year, $60 million contract leading into the 2011-2012 season. Richards played just three years under that contract, and had three productive seasons, putting together a line of 56-95-151 while missing just two regular season games.
Richards acted as the captain of the club during the most recent run to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, the cap recapture penalty risk was too great, and the Rangers had to make a business decision going forward. The Rangers will miss him, especially in the locker room, but this move was something they had to do.
Richards, who had a no-movement clause, bypassed unconditional waivers and went straight to the buyout. This was a similar move done by Chris Drury.
Nash is Canadian for frustrating.
Rick Nash – There were three Rick Nash’s this season. There was the timid, perimeter, unengaged Nash who sleep walked through parts of the season. There was the hungry, physically dominant, clutch Nash who was joint third in the entire league with nine game winning goals despite missing almost a quarter of the season. Then there was the postseason Nash whose effort and determination couldn’t be questioned but whose production certainly could.
Nash will enter next year closely watched by one and all to see how he responds to what was a hugely difficult postseason for him. Nash needs to produce more, and more consistently, given his contract, reputation and incredible size and ability. Nash managed to score a solid 26 goals in the regular season which was interrupted through injury, but everyone knows he should be the Rangers best goal scorer and he wasn’t. Grade: C
Brad Richards – Thanks for trying Brad. Brad Richards is almost certainly an ex-Ranger as his buyout is a mere formality at this stage. During the regular season, Richards actually produced quite well given his diminishing importance to the club on the ice. With 20 goals and 51 points, Richards was solid. However his second lowest shooting percentage of his career and being arguably the biggest defensive liability amongst Ranger forwards, Richards was very hit and miss.
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Per Larry Brooks, the Rangers will use their final compliance buyout on center Brad Richards:
It is a fait accompli that Brad Richards has worn the Blueshirt for the final time. It is only a matter of timing as to when management exercises its final amnesty buyout on the team’s de-facto captain, whose tenure over three years added class and a substantial presence to the organization. Richards will leave the Rangers in a far better place than when he joined them. His contract has paid for itself.
This isn’t really surprising news, as it has been widely speculated that the Rangers will use their final compliance buyout on Richards for over a year. It isn’t a matter of performance or leadership, it’s simply risk management. The cap recapture penalty is far too great for the Rangers to risk keeping Richards around. This isn’t confirmed yet, so anything can happen.
Bruce Bennet/AP Photo
Good morning, BSB’ers. You’ll have to forgive something of a sleepy “Thoughts” post. I haven’t even had a full cup of Earl Grey yet. The Rangers are back in Los Angeles tonight trying to hold off the fates and send the series back to New York, if only to give the Blueshirt faithful further coronary/anxiety/substance abuse issues. Here are some scattered thoughts on a rainy morning…
- With all the debate and enthusiasm leading up to this series, it’s kind of a strange limbo we find ourselves in. Obviously, it was nice not to be swept, but I think most realistic fans are disappointed in what seems to be an inevitable result. Yet here we are, still fighting.
- I feel like this series has just thrown all of our #fancystats and analysis out the window. The first two games, Rangers executed their game plan the best we could have hoped against a strong LA side, yet blew two goals leads and surrendered the games in OT. Yet in Game 4, they mustered a measly 19 shots on goal, got some help from everyone’s go-to guy, Mr. Crease Snow, and managed to win. Go figure.
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Whether it was with the Columbus Blue Jackets or the New York Rangers, Derick Brassard has often left the impression that the best is yet to come. One thing Brassard has always done however, is respond positively to criticism or droughts, and has developed an encouraging tendency to turn up in the big games. It all bodes well then for the rest of the playoffs, but also with regard to his future as a Ranger.
Brassard is arguably one of the most naturally gifted players on a Rangers team that has a handful of All Star calibre players and potential Hall of Fame candidates. It is perhaps Brassard’s presence – and playmaking ability – that makes the departure of Brad Richards in the summer so likely. Also, it is Brassard that makes recruiting an eventual Richards replacement an option rather than a necessity.
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Hey Suit – You’re Welcome
Before I get started with today’s topic, I first want to take moment to thank Danny Carcillo for making me look good. Last week I called for AV to scratch Fast for Carcillo for Game 3. Most slayed the idea. Then Game 4 happened.
Back to this week’s topics!
Today we’re reaching into our mailbag, aka our Twitter mentions to answer questions from our faithful readers.
Q. What do the Rangers have to do to put the Flyers away in Game 6? – @Rangrs2000
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The signs were there at the end of the regular season as Martin St. Louis began to look like the player the Rangers hoped they had acquired. It continued on Thursday night. St. Louis, while not registering a shot, was engaged, around the puck and around the net all night long and came up with two huge assists as the Rangers put down the Flyers 4-1.
Brad Richards may have played his best ever game for the Rangers Thursday night. The veteran center had a huge powerplay goal, two crucial assists, playing an energetic game while being physically and defensively committed all night long. He was there when it mattered.
Then there’s Rick Nash. Nash looked to test Ray Emery at every opportunity (given he was shaky to begin, it was the right thing to do) and as the game developed Nash looked to go to the net with more frequency and could have scored as he cut to the net from the left. Nash also got an assist, as reward for his consistent performance on the night. If Nash drives to the net with more regularity the Rangers will be that much more dangerous.
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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
• I’ll admit, it was really disappointing to see the Flyers strike first after such a dominant chance/possession showing in the first period by the Rangers. Hartnell’s hit on McDonagh that directly lead to McDonald’s goal was the stuff nightmares are made of. Fortunately, the Flyers abandoned the hard, forechecking physicality in favor of stupid stick penalties.
• Philly looked to have a bit of whiplash from the Rangers’ three scoring lines. Clearly, their priority pre-game was to shut down the St. Louis-Stepan-Nash line, but every time they turned their attention there, they got burned by Zuccarello or Richards or Hagelin.
• The first two periods were something of a microcosm of the Rangers season: tantalizing chances, high possession and yet no goals. Ray Emery made some half-decent saves, but it would have been really nice to be up 3-1 in the first or second.
• There really wasn’t a weak link the lineup last night. I thought all three defensive pairs acquitted themselves well, and the forward lines looked balanced and moved the puck exceedingly well. Read more »